DLNR hires monk seal coordinator

Kaua’i has a government-funded coordinator to help care for endangered Hawaiian monk seals that live in waters off the island.

Shawn Farry was recently hired by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The funding runs only from November to the end of January, but federal and state agencies hope to find other funding that would allow Farry to remain on the job into the spring and summer months, according to Jeff Waters of the DLNR’s division of aquatics resources on O’ahu.

Farry has been charged with managing monk seal “haul outs,” situations where a seal comes to shore to rest and warm up after eating.

To date, Farry has responded to 19 seal haul outs with the help of several agencies and organizations.

Farry also will respond to reports of injured seals and help set up protective zones for seal using signs and lightweight fences.

In addition, Farry will set up “dossiers” on seals, using digital photography to record markings to help track and study the species. So far, Farry has identified at least 11 different seals.

DLNR officials said Farry will serve as a “point-of-contact” for county agencies, hotels, coastline property owners and groups promoting the preservation of the seals.

Volunteers with the Kaua’i Monk Seal Watch Program have helped with numerous “haul out” incidents, drawing praise from the public.

Tim Robinson, a projects coordinator with the program, said he and other members are thrilled the position was created and that Farry was hired.

“We have been working over 18 months with many government officials to create and fund this new coordinator position,” Robinson said. “Shawn Ferry is a superb choice.”

Farry, who holds a master’s degree in wildlife science from Texas A &M, has spent 11 months in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands studying the seals for NOAA Fisheries and has worked on conservation projects in California, Arizona and Mexico.

DLNR officials said they anticipate Farry will have his hands full for the Kaua’i job.

Only 1,300 seals remain, and while most live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a 2001 aerial survey shows 50 inhabiting the main Hawaiian Islands, according to NOAA Fisheries scientists Jason Baker and Thea Johanos.

Of the 50 seals, most live around Kaua’i and Ni’ihau, officials said.

For his work, Farry will have a “lot of backup” from government agencies and organizations, officials said.

A three-day workshop was held in Po’ipu in October to develop a plan managing monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands.

The workshop brought together Kaua’i officials and volunteers and mainland representatives involved with monk seal conservation.

The workshop was sponsored by the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, NOAA Fisheries and DLNR.

To report a seal haul out, injury or entanglement or other monk seal-related incidents on Kaua’i, call Farry at 651-7688. Other reports can be filed with the NOAA Office for Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964.

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